Hughes '14 one of seven from CSB/SJU to win Fulbright ETA Award

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles that will appear this summer on the seven CSB and SJU graduates who earned Fulbright English Teaching Awards for the 2016-17 school year.

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June 13, 2016

By Jeff Johnson '17

Gretchen HughesGretchen Hughes is no stranger to international education. 

A 2014 graduate from the College of Saint Benedict with a degree in management, Hughes took part in not one, but two summer internship opportunities offered through the Center for Global Education during her time at CSB. 

She is getting her passport ready yet again. Hughes is one of seven recent recipients from CSB and Saint John's University to earn Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Awards. She will spend 11 months in Taiwan working with primary and middle school-aged students. 

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program places recent college graduates as English Teaching Assistants in schools and universities overseas. The ETAs improve international students' English abilities and knowledge of the U.S., while enhancing their own language skills and knowledge of the host country. ETAs may also pursue individual study/research plans in addition to their teaching responsibilities. 

Hughes spent the summer of 2013 working for Forcome Co., Ltd. in Shanghai, China. 

"I was a marketing and communications intern and the only foreigner within our company," Hughes said. "This experience was my first time outside of the United States and was incredibly empowering. I had long work days and travelled as much as I could." 

While she did not have a specific direction in mind after graduation, Hughes says "I did know that I wanted to start out in non-profit work." This prompted her to apply to work in Bosnia and Herzegovina, again through the Center for Global Education in the summer of 2014. She spent another three months teaching and building relationships at a youth development center based in Sarajevo. 

These two experiences provided the experience and inspiration she needed to continue working in international education. Her first professional position post-graduation was a fellowship with the CSB and SJU Intercultural and International Student Services for the 2015-2016 academic year. She was also a residence hall director of the West Apartments at CSB during that time. 

"Under the direction of Brandyn Woodard (director of Intercultural and International Student Services at CSB and SJU), I spent the year expanding my understanding and rhetoric surrounding social justice, inclusion and what intercultural and international education looks like in practice," she said. "This opportunity and Brandyn's mentorship further cemented my desire to work within multi-cultural contexts." 

At first, a Fulbright ETA was not on her radar. 

"I ran into John Hasselberg (professor of global business leadership at CSB/SJU and one of her management professors) at the CSB|SJU employee picnic last August. We were having a conversation about my ongoing graduate program research and where I was going to apply when he recommended I research Fulbright as an option, too. Initially, this wasn't something I had ever considered, but as I began to research what the grant had to offer I knew I had to take the chance." 

Now Hughes is looking forward to all that a Fulbright in Taiwan has to offer.  

"I chose Taiwan because of my love for the richness, history, and complexity of Chinese culture. Similarly, there are so many different cultures that have melded into Taiwan over the years and I am excited to explore and learn everything I can from the islands incredible density of ethnic diversity," she said. "Fulbright offers incredible language immersion opportunities. Mandarin Chinese was my minor at CSB and I intend to utilize this experience to gain full fluency." 

She hopes this experience will help her prepare for a future career in international education. 

"I believe this (Fulbright) experience will help me learn how I can best support, encourage and engage students who do not speak English as their native language." Hughes is also interested in the prospect of immersing herself in another culture. "I have never lived outside of Minnesota for more than that three-month time span. I am looking forward to stretching my comfort zone to new levels through this 11-month Fulbright." 

When she returns, Hughes will attend the University of Minnesota for a master's degree in comparative international development and education.

CSB and SJU students interested in applying for a Fulbright Award for the 2017-18 academic year should contact Phil Kronebusch, professor of political science and coordinator of competitive fellowships at CSB and SJU, or Jeff Anderson, associate professor of peace studies.